Finding the right equipment for your business might seem like an impossible task. With so many different manufacturers and models, it’s an ocean of opportunities. Kaya, manager of the Nordic Approach lab, asked some of our customers how they made these decisions.
If I were to start a roastery tomorrow, I would have an army of ROEST machines.
Four different coffees on the line.
One roaster for each.
One profile for each.
That would be awesome.
AINT NO BODY GOT TIME FOR THAT!
We run a sort of micro roastery in the Nordic Approach lab in Oslo. We roast samples pretty much all day every day, so we have a bit of experience using sample roasters.
If you’re aiming to set up a financially stable business roasting coffee (unlike my fantasy roastery above), here are some tips from us and our friends.
When we started we had a two barrel Probat BRZ. Probat machines are great, but expensive. They work like a dream, but they are highly manual machines and you really need a lot of training in order to handle them well. They are also a bit hard to clean, especially cleaning out the exhaust, jeez that’s hard work!
Mildred (aka the pimped up Probat)
A few months into my time at Nordic Approach we started talking with a couple of young fellas, Sverre & Trond. The brothers helped us tweak the BRZ to our needs. They added two more barrels, manual wheels for the gas on each drum, and digital thermometers.
I named this creation Mildred because she is a workhorse, a strong opinionated fuss-free machine, and she likes to do things her own way. 😛
See Mildred in action in this vintage Nordic Approach video on sample roasting.
With all her special effects and additions, Mildred truly sparkles. But still, we had issues with consistency and it was tricky teaching others to roast on it. While we were trying to perfect Mildred, Sverre & Trond were working on another little project you may have heard of called…
Once we moved to our new offices, we started using the ROEST machines. They are super fun, and a totally different machine to the Probat. As the ROEST is a hybrid, you get the best of both worlds. And they are easier and more consistent to handle.
In our lab now, we have two production line roasters from ROEST, and also the #9 prototype.
The ROEST allows us to easily change profiles, share profiles and edit anything we want. It’s a great machine to learn sample roasting, as you can adjust the settings and have a fully manual machine. There are also programmable profiles which help maintain consistency.
Krzysztof Barabosz from Hard Beans Coffee Roasters in Poland agrees that the ROEST sample roaster is a great tool for learning to roast. “It’s clear how different stages — drying, Maillard, development — are impacting the final taste profile of the coffee,” he said. Krzysztof is also very impressed by the technical support. Last month, while in Guatemala, he needed help adjusting the machine to Guatemala’s less stable electricity supply. “The help I received, despite the different time zones, and that it was a weekend, was very fast,” he said. “In the end we managed to update the machine, create suitable roast profiles, and show the producer the most important maintenance steps.”
In our Addis Ababa and New York offices we use Ikawas because they are so easy to travel with. They also don’t demand a lot of sample material, and they are easy to clean.
Ease of use is a major benefit for many of our customers. Fergus Brown of Roasted Brown in Ireland likes his Ikawa because “it’s small, it’s cheap, it’s super simple to use. I can set up my laptop and have the Ikawa roasting beside me.”
Or, as Scott Tedder from Bonanza Coffee in Germany says “I can take it home and roast in my pants.”
Patrick Groenewold of Single Estate Coffee Roasters likes the reproducibility. “It’s more consistent than I can be, as a human, since sample roasting is not my daily job.”
Or none at all…
Of course there is always the option of not investing in a sample roaster, and relying on your importers instead. This was Fergus’ original intention (before he was offered a machine half price). “We’re not super fussy about sample roasting,” Fergus said. “If we’re in a hurry we’ll ask our suppliers to send over roasted samples. It will be radically different, how each importer roasts the samples, but it’s our job as tasters to understand them.”
According to Fergus, sample roasting is functional. “We don’t aim to get the roast perfect, we just aim to get it brown so we can taste and read into what’s there and what we can achieve with this coffee.”
Read Part 1 in this series: Finding The Perfect Roasting Machine For You